We arrived in Cartagena on the morning of January 12th after a short flight from Medellin. We were instantly hit with a + 10 degree temperature difference. Welcome to Caribbean Columbia!
We stayed at a small converted mansion, Casa Abril II located within the walls of old town Cartagena (Cartagena de Indias) which is a UNESCO designated world heritage site.
The colonial architecture in the old town is outstanding, built by the Spanish from the mid-16th century. Strolling through the streets we were met by beautiful huge vines of buganvilias that spilled over the terraces eliciting a sense of well being and beauty.
And then came the non-stop harassment from the multitude of vendors and street sellers and wanna be rap hip hop singers who forced their way into your face and royally pissed us off. And if there happened to be a billion (5,000) passenger cruise ship in town then all bets were off. Old Cartagena with all of it’s colonial beauty is not a place we would visit again and is probably worth only a day or two of your time.. The harassment was never ending. Por favor deja de molestarnos, please stop bothering us.
On a more positive note, the restaurants we visited were all top notch and the food was delicious however being in a main tourist attraction, the prices were also way up there. Not much different than the prices in our home town of Vancouver.
Just outside the walls of Old Cartagena is the large and imposing Castillo de San Felipe, the largest military building constructed by the Spanish Crown in the Americas. The castle was built in 1536 and is located on the Hill of San Lazaro which gives it an excellent vantage point and strategic location to view the approaches to the city by land or sea. Our impression was this was more of a fort than a castle because there were very few inner passages you could explore and none seemed to lead to rooms or sleeping quarters however this may be because these aren’t open to the public if they do indeed exist.